Editorial: System freeing up police

By Dylan Thorne

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Sometimes, between the fear crime generates and public demand for police to cut offending rates, it is hard to get a clear view of what we want from the justice system.

It's easy to take the position that everyone who commits a crime should be punished to the full extent of the law.

But this does nothing to lessen the load on a court system struggling under the weight of too many cases or police officers working on the frontline who have to spend time preparing files for court hearings.

Anyone who has sat through a court list knows the volume of cases that court staff have to get through each day.

The collective cost of this massive workload falls on the taxpayer. Yesterday, we reported that a pre-charge warning system, introduced in 2010, was saving Bay police time processing lower-level offending and unclogging choked courts.

The pre-charge system allows police to arrest a person, take them to the station for processing and, if appropriate and the offender admits guilt, police can issue a warning as an alternative to a charge or prosecution.

The warning goes on the offender's record and is included in police statistics.

Bay of Plenty police issued 2283 pre-charge warnings in the 2011/12 financial year - mostly for breaching the local liquor ban, disorderly behaviour and fighting in a public place.

The new system is estimated to have freed up 37,000 police hours. The time saved was the equivalent of 21 additional frontline officers.

Western Bay of Plenty area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton says the warnings enabled police to spend more time preventing serious offending. A change was needed to reduce the sheer number of cases going through our court system. It's good to see that the pre-charge system working. It is also allowing police to tackle top-end crime.

Isn't this what we want police to concentrate on?

- Bay of Plenty Times

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